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Exchanging for Foreign Currency - best location?

Exchanging for Foreign Currency - best location?

Old Jan 15, 15, 10:35 am
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Exchanging for Foreign Currency - best location?

Where is it best to get some foreign currency..

In this case Euros?
I'm based in the US (Seattle). I know i can pull cash using debit card, and spend using credit cards, but i'd like to have a little cash (1000 or so euros) on hand..

Is going to a BoA or Chase bank the best? any recs?

Thanks!
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Old Jan 15, 15, 10:43 am
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There's really no need to bring Euros in advance, much less that much. Just go to the ATM when you arrive, I've yet to encounter an airport in Europe without an ATM in the arrivals area and then other times when needed. The rate will be better than most currency exchange options.

If you're worried about the slim chance of the ATMs not working on arrival, simply keep some dollars with you and exchange at your arrival airport if it's an emergency.
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Old Jan 15, 15, 11:55 am
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Rates seem to be better in Vancouver, BC.
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Old Jan 15, 15, 12:08 pm
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Agree with 84fiero, just bring some USD (maybe $80-$100) just in case you can't find a working ATM at your destination airport and need to hit an exchange booth.

Your USA debit card should work just fine in Europe. There will be an option on nearly all ATMs for English. I've also used mine at a Shell station to buy gas from the automated pump (US mag stripe debit card worked, my chip and sig CC didn't. This was in Belgium).

I definitely would not carry around €1000 at once though! (Do you carry around $1000 on a daily basis at home?) I would just get enough € to cover any of that day's planned purchases plus a little extra reserve. There's usually a fee for using an ATM, but you'll generally come out ahead compared to most exchange rates.
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Old Jan 15, 15, 12:14 pm
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EUR1000 is not 'a little' cash - it's the entire amount I spent in cash on my last four trips to Europe, given the prevalence of credit card payment options. Yikes! I'd recommend withdrawing 200EUR at most, and doing it upon arrival at an ATM. Just carry a little US currency in case of emergencies (like not being able to find an ATM - although they're just as common in Europe as they are here, so it shouldn't be a problem at all.)

You'll get a much better rate withdrawing from a foreign ATM than you will at a US bank, and it'll be a lot less hassle!
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Old Jan 15, 15, 12:40 pm
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Originally Posted by vmsea View Post
Where is it best to get some foreign currency..

In this case Euros?
I'm based in the US (Seattle). I know i can pull cash using debit card, and spend using credit cards, but i'd like to have a little cash (1000 or so euros) on hand..

Is going to a BoA or Chase bank the best? any recs?

Thanks!
It's a terrible mistake to arrive in Europe penniless, so you are wise to buy some in advance.

I always buy at least a thousand euros through Wells Fargo. They charge five percent above the current market rate, which I find reasonable. I think at one time they only charged four percent, and I found a money changer in New York once who only charged three percent.

My wife's ATM card was eaten by a bank machine in Italy on a Friday afternoon, and if I hadn't had substantial cash plus a credit card our trip would have been ruined. Also, my experience with my wife is that finding a working ATM machine isn't always as easy as everyone pretends it to be. Contrary to popular belief, sometimes ATM machines are broken; sometimes ATM have lines, while there is never a line to use your own cash; sometimes ATM machines won't accept every card; sometimes you have to walk and search for a while to find an ATM machine.

With all of that said, I do intend to get an ATM card not connected to my bank account for my next trip. I've always taken a couple of thousand dollars in US currency in case I spent all my euros. On my last trip I started to run short and found that it is now virtually impossible to exchange dollars in Europe. Even so, I have no plans to ever set foot in Europe without at least 1,000 cash euros.
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Old Jan 15, 15, 12:44 pm
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Thanks for the feedback guys... I guess a "little" is relative.. you can't pay for some stuff with credit card in Amsterdam..

Jokes aside, i'll probably bring a combination of a little Euro i change at my bank like 100 euros just in case.. bring some USD as backup.. and withdraw on ATM when i get there as the primary source.

Thanks gang!
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Old Jan 15, 15, 1:12 pm
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Having a little cash, even as little as paying for the bus fare to town and having enough to buy a sandwich, is nice. I have my own little bank of major foreign currency, Euro, Pounds, Japanese Yen, Australian Dollars, Canadian Dollars, Swiss Francs, and Singapore Dollars.

(Anyone want to trade and get my Swiss Franc supply? )

VBCE in Vancouver gives good rates and will quote a USD to Euro or other rates. With them, you don't need to trade USD > CAD > Euro or others.

U.S. retail rates tend not to be too good.

I've read that in Paris, the vending machines for local transit require a chip and PIN credit card or cash. I have both but chip and PIN cards are rare in the U.S. Chip and swipe cards are a little less rare. Most cards are swipe only.
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Old Jan 15, 15, 5:43 pm
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Originally Posted by Rebelyell View Post
It's a terrible mistake to arrive in Europe penniless, so you are wise to buy some in advance.

I always buy at least a thousand euros through Wells Fargo. They charge five percent above the current market rate, which I find reasonable. I think at one time they only charged four percent, and I found a money changer in New York once who only charged three percent.

My wife's ATM card was eaten by a bank machine in Italy on a Friday afternoon, and if I hadn't had substantial cash plus a credit card our trip would have been ruined. Also, my experience with my wife is that finding a working ATM machine isn't always as easy as everyone pretends it to be. Contrary to popular belief, sometimes ATM machines are broken; sometimes ATM have lines, while there is never a line to use your own cash; sometimes ATM machines won't accept every card; sometimes you have to walk and search for a while to find an ATM machine.

With all of that said, I do intend to get an ATM card not connected to my bank account for my next trip. I've always taken a couple of thousand dollars in US currency in case I spent all my euros. On my last trip I started to run short and found that it is now virtually impossible to exchange dollars in Europe. Even so, I have no plans to ever set foot in Europe without at least 1,000 cash euros.
Impossible to exchange dollars? I found that there are a plethora of post offices, banks, and bureaux de change willing to assist, especially in the capital/tier 1 cities that draw tourists.
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Old Jan 15, 15, 5:53 pm
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Originally Posted by Rebelyell View Post
It's a terrible mistake to arrive in Europe penniless, so you are wise to buy some in advance.

I always buy at least a thousand euros through Wells Fargo. They charge five percent above the current market rate, which I find reasonable.
Am I the only one who thinks 5% above market rate is totally unreasonable? That sounds like the kind of ripoff rate that would be charged by an airport currency exchange counter.
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Old Jan 15, 15, 7:29 pm
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Originally Posted by mapleg View Post
Am I the only one who thinks 5% above market rate is totally unreasonable? That sounds like the kind of ripoff rate that would be charged by an airport currency exchange counter.
I think even 3% is high given the options available, but the airport currency exchange counters usually run closer to 15%, depending on the amount of the exchange.
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Old Mar 5, 15, 7:56 pm
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Exchanging Other Countries Currency

Slightly off topic, but I currently have about 3300 HK $ and 500 Polish Zlotys and at this time I have no plans to visit those countries in the near future. I will be in Paris next week and was wondering where would the best place be to exhange those currencies for Euros. Obviously, I don't want to use the airport exchange, but would a local branch of that countries bank (ie HSBC, Polski Bank) in Paris be a better option or any other suggestion ?
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Old Mar 6, 15, 12:17 am
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You will have problems exchanging the HKD at anything other than a main city branch, even if it is an HSBC branch.
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Old Mar 9, 15, 9:01 am
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Get a Charles Schwab checking account (no account minimum or fees) and you get ATM fees reimbursed (both domestically and internationally) and for international ATM, you don't get charged a Forex fee. I've been very happy with them.
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Old Mar 9, 15, 10:49 am
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Originally Posted by mapleg View Post
Am I the only one who thinks 5% above market rate is totally unreasonable? That sounds like the kind of ripoff rate that would be charged by an airport currency exchange counter.
Yeah that is horrible, my fees are right around 1% from my local credit union for foreign ATM withdrawals, and if I do more than 10 swipe transactions a month they credit that back up to $25.

Between my wife and I, we are carrying 4 ATM cards tied into three different banks. Occasionally, I have run into problems with one, but never with all four. I also carry a couple hundred USD for emergencies. Now that chip cards in the US are becoming more wide spread, I have found my need for cash in Europe has fallen dramatically.
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